University of Pretoria (Tuks) swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker won the South African Sportswoman of Year-award as well. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo

DURBAN University of Pretoria (Tuks) swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker won the South African Sportswoman of Year-award as well as the South African Sports Star of the Year award in Durban on Sunday. 

This year Schoenmaker won a silver medal in the 200m-breaststroke during the World Championships in Korea. It was the first time that a local swimmer medalled at a world long course championship (50m).

The Tuks swimmer also won two gold medals (100m as well as 200m breaststroke) at the World Student Games in Napoli, Italy. She also won two gold medals at the Tokyo World Cup (100m and 200m breaststroke).

South Africa's national swimming coach, Graham Hill, was one of the first to congratulate Schoenmaker. 

He said: "Well done. It has been a great team effort. Stay focused. You guys are eight months away from something special. Believe me; it will be here quicker than you think." 

Hill was referring to next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

Schoenmaker said: "Every award I received is special. At times it is still hard to believe that I am considered to be one of the best. I am not always sure whether I inspire young female swimmers. I can only hope so.

“I will certainly continue trying to do my best whenever I compete. The most important thing every young swimmer should realise is that nothing is impossible. They only have to believe and be prepared to put in the long and hard hours. 

"There was a time that the media had some harsh opinions on the state of South African women's swimming. There had been a lot of speculation about whether female swimmers were good enough.

"This year will be remembered as the year that South African female swimmers truly stepped up. There were nearly as many female swimmers competing at the World Championships than there were men. 

"In the past one of the worrisome statistics in South African swimming were the big time gap between the heroics of Penny Heyns to Suzaan van Biljon and me. I honestly believe it is changing.” 

African News Agency (ANA)